It is important for victims to have a voice. It is part of the victims healing phase. However, I do not believe there should be continued contact past the controlled environment. Victims have the right to confront their aggressor and express their emotions towards the offender. These programs work to give victims a sense of closure. I don’t necessarily believe that this program gives the offender the same type of closure because for the offender this is where they need to admit and accept the pain they caused another person. The victim’s voices heard program also helps the offender acknowledge and attain a better understanding of the crime they committed. It helps them understand how their crime impacted the victim long term. Prisoners are able to gain knowledge of the negative impact crime has on victims. This program also enables offenders to express empathy towards victims and to decrease the offender’s stance of blaming the victim.
Ultimately this program is to also make the prisoner aware of their actions and the repercussions that come from such crime and how it impacts victims’ long term. It also allows the prisoner the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions. Victim- offender programs such as this one incorporate restorative justice. Inclusion of victims in criminal justice processes has created more punitive and retributive correctional policies, whereas others think that greater involvement of victims creates a more efficient, justice-orientates and restorative process (Mika, Achilles, Halbert, Amstutz and Zehr, 2004). According to Armour, the author of Bridges to Life (2006, p.2), “restorative justice seeks to elevate the role of crime victims and community members, hold offenders directly accountable to the people they have violated, and restore the emotional and material losses of victims by providing a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving that can lead to a greater sense of community safety, conflict resolution, and healing for all involved.” This approach to justice involves everyone who was directly impacted by the crime. Programs such as this can have positive outcomes when all those involved are active participants.
Institutionalized restorative justice programs are relatively new to the U.S. Institutional restorative justice programs is a tool that will empower offenders to accept responsibility for their actions and repair the harm they impacted upon victims and the community while simultaneously generating pro-social behaviors while the prisoner is incarcerated and upon release (Towes, 2006). Restorative justice programs that are available for inmates are important for mental health and well-being for those inmates that are long term residents. Those inmates who have short term sentences actually have the opportunity to mend fences and relationships upon their release. In contrast, “it is a given that those long-term inmates serving long sentences will have no opportunity to reconcile with those to whom have experienced pain and suffering” Fraley (pg.62). Additionally, inmates who are serving long term sentences eventually become more disconnected from the crime they committed. Some offenders may not want to participate in any type of restorative justice program and therefore should not be obligated to participate. A meeting that is forced upon an inmate that does not want to actively participate in a restorative justice program would not beneficial to the victim.
To an extent the victim could experience more hurt if the inmate is not receptive or empathetic towards the victim’s emotions. This could revictimize the victim all over again. This is why it is crucial for victims to be aware that they may not always get the closure they may be seeking. In the perfect world we would all hope restorative justice programs would work and provide the best outcomes for the victim and offender however this is not always the case.